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Friday, December 4, 2020

Old Pulteney 1989-2015 Lightly Peated

In a practice never since repeated by the distillery, Old Pulteney released two limited edition batches of lightly peated single malt in 2014 and 2015, distilled in 1990 and 1989, respectively. The malts themselves were not peated, rather the whisky spent the entirety of its maturation time in bourbon barrels that had previously held Islay single malt.

If you haven't had the opportunity to try Laphroaig bottled in that time period because whisky prices are now so extreme, then please take my word that Laphroaig was a much different whisky then than its current counterpart, earthier, oiler and certainly fruitier. (I don't know if this Old Pulteney was aged specifically in Laphroaig barrels, but there was at least one official single cask distilled in 1990 that had spent its life in such a cask.) So I hope today's small batch of 15+ casks resulted in a mildly smoky thing.

Distillery: Pulteney
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands (Wick)
Age: 25 to 26 years old (1989 - 2015)
Maturation: refill bourbon barrels that had previously held Islay malt
Outturn: 3210 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a bottle split)

Smoked almonds, white peaches, rosewater and hint of cotton candy show up in the nose first. It gradually takes on a slightly mossiness, hints of Canadian bacon and blue cheese, as well as a newly opened box of graham crackers. That last note carries over into the palate where I immediately find s'mores and charcoal smoke. Then lime juice, copper, cinnamon, toffee chips and a Campari-like bite. An old school industrial note rumbles beneath. It finishes with charcoal, limes, grapefruits and Campari.

Gonna be gentle with the water...

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or < ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose focuses on almonds, orange peels, citronella candles and a snuffed bonfire. A bright herbal bitterness pushes the palate's sweetness aside. Lots of almonds and maybe a half cigarette. The finish matches the palate.

Indeed, it's mellow; a calm, casual Highland malt. I wonder if Pulteney could recreate something like this today, or have peated casks become too violent? Anyway, I was neither surprised nor disappointed by this whisky. The citrus, subtle bitterness and slight dirtiness of the palate proved to be among the highlights, along with the smoked almond and white peach combo in the nose. Dilution simplified it, but didn't ruin it. Buyers may wish for sensory fireworks when purchasing a whisky at this bottle's current price, but one should instead expect a pleasant, unfussy drink.

Availability - It's still around
Pricing - though it was 
€180 upon release, expect anything from €450-€900 now
Rating - 87